Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Invoking Sept. 11, Syrian Accuses U.S. Of Hypocrisy

New York Times
October 1, 2013
Pg. 6


By Rick Gladstone and Somini Sengupta
Seeking to rebut Syria’s political opposition and its outside supporters, the Syrian foreign minister on Monday equated his country’s brutal conflict to the Sept. 11 attacks and accused the United States of hypocrisy.
“The people of New York have witnessed the devastations of terrorism, and were burned with the fire of extremism and bloodshed, the same way we are suffering now in Syria,” the foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, told the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. “How can some countries, hit by the same terrorism we are suffering now in Syria, claim to fight terrorism in all parts of the world, while supporting it in my country?”
The United States denounced Mr. Moallem’s assertions. In a statement issued afterward, Erin Pelton, a spokeswoman for the United States Mission, called Mr. Moallem’s remark “as disingenuous as it is offensive.”
She also said, “The fact that the Syrian regime has shelled schools and hospitals and used chemical weapons on its own people demonstrates that it has adopted the very terrorist tactics that it today decried.”
The only positive remarks about the United States in the speech by Mr. Moallem were in his endorsement of efforts made to improve the estranged relationship with Iran, the Syrian government’s only regional ally.
Most of Mr. Moallem’s speech amounted to a point-by-point rejection of the West’s version of the conflict in Syria, which began as a peaceful uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011. It has turned into a sectarian civil war that has left more than 100,000 people dead and millions displaced, and made the country a magnet for Sunni jihadists bent on toppling Mr. Assad’s ruling Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
In a reference to a group of Western and Arab countries that support the opposition, Mr. Moallem said, “They are the ones supporting terrorism in my country, in contradiction of all United Nations resolutions and all human and moral values.” He said some of these countries did not want to recognize that Al Qaeda and its affiliates are even fighting in Syria.
“The scenes of murder, manslaughter and eating human hearts were shown on TV screens, but did not touch blind consciences,” he said. “In Syria, ladies and gentlemen, there are murderers who dismember human bodies into pieces while still alive and send their limbs to their families, just because those citizens are defending a unified and secular Syria.”
He ridiculed assertions made by the United States and its allies about the existence of a moderate armed opposition in Syria that has repudiated the jihadists and that advocates an inclusive democracy representing all Syrian groups.
“The claims about the existence of moderate militants and extremist militants have become a bad joke,” he said. “Terrorism means only terrorism. It cannot be classified as moderate terrorism and extremist terrorism.”
Mr. Moallem appeared to refer only obliquely to the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus that left hundreds of people dead, an event that led to intensive diplomacy by Russia and the United States that averted an American-led missile strike on Syrian government targets. As a result, Syria, known to harbor one of the world’s largest stockpiles of chemical weapons, agreed to join the worldwide treaty banning them. A unanimous Security Council resolution approved Friday is aimed at holding Syria to its pledge, under which the weapons will be sequestered and then destroyed by mid-2014.
A United Nations investigation into the Aug. 21 attack did not specify who was responsible, but the forensic information it compiled appeared to implicate Syrian government forces. Mr. Assad has repeatedly asserted that insurgents are using chemical arms.
Reflecting the government’s view, Mr. Moallem said that even with its accession to the treaty banning chemical weapons, “there remains the challenge that is facing all of us: whether those who are supplying terrorists with these types of weapons will abide by their legal commitments, since terrorists, who used poisonous gases in my country, have received chemical agents from regional and Western countries that are well known to all of us.”
He also beseeched the Syrian families who have fled to neighboring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, many of them confined to refugee camps, to return home. “I appeal, from this platform, to Syrian citizens to return to their towns and villages where the state guarantees their safe return and their livelihood away from the inhuman conditions they suffer in those camps,” he said.
The United Nations, which coordinates the effort to accommodate Syrian refugees, has repeatedly called for more donations to handle the growing populations in the camps. António Guterres, the high commissioner for refugees, said in a statement on the refugee agency’s Web site on Monday that more than 2.1 million Syrians had registered as refugees and that the crisis was threatening the host countries’ “social and economic fabric.”
The Syrian foreign minister spoke as the Security Council was considering issuing a statement urging all sides in the conflict to allow access to humanitarian aid.
A Security Council statement lacks the coercive power of a resolution, which was likely to have been opposed by Russia, Syria’s principal ally on the Council. Diplomats nonetheless said they wanted to seize on the momentum of last Friday’s chemical weapons resolution, rather than sink into protracted talks once more.
A number of humanitarian agencies, including Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders, along with the United Nations agency that coordinates humanitarian relief, have called on the Council to urge the warring parties to allow the unmolested movement of emergency relief into the country.
In Syria, the group of chemical weapons inspectors who returned to the country last week after their investigation of the Aug. 21 attack have left after six days, a United Nations spokesman said. The spokesman, Martin Nesirky, said the inspectors had visited at least one other suspected attack site, spoken to survivors and inspected medical documents.
Mr. Nesirky said the inspectors had not yet investigated the site of a suspected attack on March 19 in Khan al-Assal, near Aleppo, in which the Syrian authorities and insurgents have blamed each other for chemical weapons use.
Under Syria’s commitment to surrender its chemical arsenal, an advance team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Hague-based group that monitors compliance, will arrive in the country on Tuesday.

No comments:

Post a Comment